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The Nonprofit Blog

6 comments - Last on 01/29/2009

Recession Fundraising:
Getting back to donor data base-ics

It amazes me how many nonprofit organizations do not take advantage of the low-cost, skillfully designed donor management software that is on the market today.  

Microsoft Access and Excel are not donor databases.  Yes, they are an improvement over keeping your notes on cocktail napkins, but they are merely electronic rolodexes.  A donor database is a dynamic tool that helps you record donations, thank supporters and actively cultivate loyal relationships with your donors that will lead to sustainable partnerships; yes, even in these hard times.

Where to begin?  A google search of "donor database" results in over 1.3 million hits.  Ugh.  Techsoup  weeds through with a good comparison chart available for free download.  If you're just getting started, read Robert Weiner's article at  the Network for Good Learning Center. Also, read Weiner's classic article:  Ten Common Mistakes in Selecting Donor Databases.  Once you begin to get a sense of what's out there, get references from development directors who use these databases.

I would love to have you join me for my free teleseminar on Feb. 23rd: Using Donor Management Software to Build Profitable Relationships.  We'll discuss specifics of what your database can and will do for you (if you put in the time and effort.)  I will be offering tips on finding the right software for your organization and setting it up to help you set aggressive goals and achieve them; yes, even in these hard times.

Take a look at GiftWorks by Mission Research.  It is a high powered, dynamic fundraising tool.  The website offers a great video library of  demos as well as free live online tours.  Mission Research is committed to helping their users get the most out of their software.  They understand fundraising and strive to offer a product that responds to the needs of  development director in this challenging economic climate.  The phone support desk is terrific and the  price for the Standard Edition is only $399!

The use and selection of a donor database is an important discussion and I hope some of you will comment on the donor management software you use and its value in your fundraising initiatives.

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As someone transitioning to the nonprofit sector from the information services industry I have experience installing databases. There are three consistent issues I saw arise and am confident they are applicable to nonprofit organizations as well:

1) Immediately opting for a database based mainly on the name or the cost even though it may not be appropriate to the fundraising needs. A decision made for the wrong reason will be a bad fit for the organization and result in unproductive and resentful employees.


2) Not knowing what the fundraising needs are. This is the core issue. Too often the people who make the database decision are in the IT department. They have valid infrastructure and security concerns that need to be understood, but they will not be the everyday users of the database. Only the people who have a deep understanding of what their jobs require, what they currently can do and what they need to do can properly evaluate database functionality. The tone is set by management who must take ownership of the relationship with the database provider.

3) Training is given short shrift and a support person is delegated to handle the database. A solid database should be the nervous system of an organization. Rather than trying to shoehorn the current process into the new system, an install is the best time for a total evaluation of all processes and communications. It can be time-consuming, but it's the only way to implement more efficient and effective procedures. Otherwise the organization is likely to settle into a mindset of, "This is the way we've always done it. This is how I learned to do it. This is the way I tell everyone to do it."

I'm enjoying the technology theme this month and hope you'll continue drawing attention to this important topic.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomaslnegron


thank you for helping demistify the concept of creating a dynamic donor base by use of affordable software that is user friendly.  i had a meeting this morning with a small non profit and i emphasized the importance of a donor base as the foundation to successful fund raising (i picked that up from class the other day).  at first they were hesitant,  but when i shared the concept of lower cost software that is more user friendly they jumped at the idea. 

ted kamoutsis


I think buying a computer program to keep your database in a bad economy seems like an efficient investment for fundraising.


Thank you for this informative article on "donor data base-ics" and for the free teleseminar "Technology for Fundraising."  I particulary liked your comments regarding excel and access being "electronic rolodexes" and the 30/70 rule. This will be vital when upgrading from the e-rolodex to a donor database software program.  


As someone who has worked with the Board and founders of a small start-up non-profit, I cannot say how helpful its been learning about the different "levels" available for donor databases. An organization like the one I worked for would not be willing to invest a large sum of money right off, but it is, in my view, the best investment a non-profit can make. Just being able to present a choice that is more inexpensive, but still specially designed for managing your donor information and helping form lasting donor relationships is extremely helpful in convincing the Board to acquire this type of software instead of going the Excell route for the first year and then learning how inefficient it can be for these purposes. Thank you for your input.


Our nonprofit organization has created a team to select new hardware and software to more fully meet the organization's growing needs. Your blog and the comments were very helpful -- the first budget proposal came in without anything budgeted for training or technical support. We are reworking the budget to make sure that we cover these essential components.


1 comment - Last on 02/02/2009

Lessons from Barack Obama

The eyes of the world are on Washington, DC today as billions of people join the US citizens in hope for the administration of President Barack Obama.  There is a stirring sense of optimism that we can build a better world at this turning point in history.

Three million people made 6.5 million donations online to Obama, totaling a half billion dollars!  Most were first-time political donors, contributed $80 on the average, and gave more than once.  Through email, text messaging and social networking, Obama combined the most basic fundraising fundamentals (relationship building, volunteerism, donor involvement) with cutting-edge, yet inexpensive technology that could reach an unprecedented number of citizens.  His fundraising costs were 5 to 10 cents on the dollar compared to 95 cents, the average for direct mail.  Read about this and more. 

In the coming years, many will be looking to our nonprofit sector with the same hope that we can build a better world for our children. The nonprofit community must take its inspiration from Barack Obama.  I urge you to study his campaign and this historic groundswell of grassroots support and consider what elements you can apply to your own mission.  A terrific article by David Erickson on the eStrategy Internet Marketing Blog will help get you started. 

In the coming years, the challenges to the nonprofit sector will be enormous.  We will need the participation of our friends, neighbors and all citizens.  Make the case - get the word out - sincerely engage the support of  people who want to help and want to be part of initiatives that will change our world for the better.

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I'm enormously impressed by the Obama campaign's use of the new technology and social media to raise funds for his successful election.  What an inspiration for the nonprofit sector!  Granted, this team had a ton of money to upstart and maintain it's online programs, but the bottom line of spending only ten cents for every dollar earned-- and bringing in as much as it did, in such a short time-- are very cool nevertheless.  It's a very thrilling time to be learning about fundraising.


2 comments - Last on 01/16/2009

Are you onboard with online fundraising?

The January 15th Chronicle of Philanthropy states that online donations through major giving sites continued to grow in 2008 even though there was drop off in the last quarter.  Take it from me:  online giving is here to stay.  Even if you are an organization whose donors do not typically use the internet to donate, you can be sure that in rapidly increasing numbers, potential donors are going to your website to help make their decisions.

Network for Good recently published an excellent free publication entitled:  The 2008 Online Fundraising Survival Guide:  12 Winning Strategies to Survive and Thrive in a Down Economy .  It is easy to digest and chock full of great strategies to raise more money in the context of websites and emails.  It also includes some good links to important information on website optimization (the 2009 term for direct mail.)  Remember, your website has little value if no one is going to it.   There's a link to learning how to be a fundraising superhero  - an important quality for the challenges that lie ahead.  Don't miss Steps 9 & 10 on cleaning and building your email lists; it addresses these often asked questions.  In fact, I recommend reading every single page of this terrific publication.  It's full of tried and true fundraising fundamentals, great links and timely information.

Let me know how you like it.

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This report is so full of information and ideas -- it's an incredible resource for fundraisers!  The first point -- about the button not working -- is really important.  To quote Anne LaMott, if your wife locks you out of the house, you don't have a problem with your key...  So if your 'donate button isn't working' -- look at the rest of the list.  It's great!


What a great resource!  The survival guide link you provided is truly wonderful. There is so much information that can be brought to any non profit and put to use, especially right now during these hard times. Soon online will be the only way to raise money- especially the younger generations. I specifically realize how important step 7 “(Turning a one time giver into recurring givers) is with the donors I have. The information given  will help us approach our current donor base and encourage them to give again.
Thank you for sharing this information. I learned so much from your class on 1/15 and I know by coming to your website I can continue to learn more and more.
Thank you!
-Alyssa Youngerman


2 comments - Last on 01/27/2009

Tell Us How You REALLY Feel About Your Website

When asked about their organizations' websites, many fundraisers remark:  "Don't look at it right now because   ...it needs to be updated;  ...we're in the midst of a web-makeover;  ...the donation link is a little sketchy;  ...I'm not responsible for it."  In 2009, those answers are not acceptable.

Your organization's website is your billboard and your chance to make a good impression.  Whether or not your prospective donors plan to give online, you can be sure they are going to your website to help them decide whether to make a donation and how much of a donation to make.

Does your nonprofit organization's website:  Reflect your mission, achievements and potential?  Demonstrate that you are ethical, competent and accountable? Reach out, engage visitors and and draw them in to explore and get involved? MAKE IT FUN AND EASY TO MAKE A DONATION?

Check out Principles for an Effective Nonprofit Website for guidelines, checklists and best practices for your organization's website.  You are also invited to listen to and share my recent tele-seminar on "Technology for Fundraising" downloadable from the upper left corner of this website.

Add a Comment

Thank you very much for sharing this useful information regarding the best practices for an organization’s website. I highly recommend to every NPO-manager to go together with his team through the checklist. Questions like “Are there no broken links to pages within your own website?” might sound marginal to some, but are actually a very practical advise since many web pages contain links leading to nowhere … Furthermore I encourage EVERY professional and volunteer to listen to the tele-seminar! You will get a compact and comprehensive overview and many resources on following topics: your organization's website, donor management software, and online and email communications. Especially the tips regarding the donor management software are very useful. If you think of a donor-database as a Rolodex, you better start listening right now!


For a newcomer like myself to the field of fundraising, the advice and links provided on this website are amazing. Thank you for sharing all this expertise. I am convinced that my volunteer efforts on behalf of a small nonprofit in Africa will surely benefit the organization - thanks to all the wonderful ideas and suggestions to be found here. The content is easily accessible and realistic yet inspiring! I am off to revamp the organization's website...


Technology for Fundraising

Clients are lined up at the door.  Holiday Appeals may have fallen short and eveyone is nervous about money.  Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and consider our strategies for 2009:  How will we instill confidence in our funders and donors?  Let's start by shoring up our own self-confidence with some solid planning and goal setting for our fundraising initiatives.  Integral to this planning will be our Strategic Plan for Technology.

In the month of January, The Nonprofit Blog will focus on technology planning for nonprofits.  I am not referring to "when to buy new computers" but rather about how to connect your technology needs and planning to your fundraising initiative.

If you are looking for greater efficiencies in your development office; ways to keep your funders and donors engaged and secure about their investments in your cause; and innovative ways to raise more money, stay tuned.

Send us your technology questions and our team will address them this month.

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6 comments - Last on 01/29/2009

Recession Fundraising:
Getting back to donor data base-ics

 Read more...
 

1 comment - Last on 02/02/2009

Lessons from Barack Obama

 Read more...
 

2 comments - Last on 01/16/2009

Are you onboard with online fundraising?

 Read more...
 

2 comments - Last on 01/27/2009

Tell Us How You REALLY Feel About Your Website

 Read more...
 

Technology for Fundraising

 Read more...
 


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